It’s important for the retail sector to digitize to emerge stronger from the pandemic: Gan Kim Yong


SINGAPORE — Local shoe and accessories retailer Charles & Keith was already selling its products online, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it accelerated the process of digitizing the business.

Now, the company not only offers online training to its 7,000 employees worldwide, but also hosts cyber sales pitches for wholesale buyers around the world.

This was revealed during a visit on Tuesday (August 24) by Commerce and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong and State Commerce and Industry Minister Low Yen Ling to the company’s headquarters in Tai Seng. .

Speaking to the media virtually after the visit, Mr. Gan said: “The retail industry underwent transformation even before Covid-19, but Covid-19 accelerated the transformation process.

“Digitalisation also helps the retail sector to be more visible and to be more efficient in its operations, while offering great flexibility.”

Mr. Brandon Ong, Deputy Managing Director of Charles & Keith, gave an example of this transformation within the company.

He said that before the pandemic, wholesale buyers flocked to his headquarters in Tai Seng four times a year.

To showcase its products, the company set up an elevated runway on the seventh floor of the building, and throughout the day models showcased the latest designs and paraded down the runway for shoppers.

This was discontinued in March last year. But the same month, Charles & Keith moved to an online platform where shoppers can log in to get a 360-degree view of products, such as shoes and accessories.

Designers were also hosting livestream sessions to interact with buyers.

Speaking to the media, Mr Gan said that although the journey may be difficult, the government will provide the necessary support. But companies will also need to invest in upgrading the skills of their employees, including improving their digital skills.

At Charles & Keith Group, e-commerce teams have been equipped to use an online system that will allow them to track global sales, brand products searched for in search engines and product popularity in real time.

Ms Low noted that Charles & Keith Group’s training operations have also been impacted by the pandemic. She said employees could not travel to other countries for training.

“They’ve put their training online, and now with the push of a button, staff can access training courses… Managers will also be able to see the strength and attributes of staff online, which really improves the operational and labor efficiency,” Ms. Low added.


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